That Damn Show | Mesa Amphitheatre | April 20, 2013
The history of That Damn Show is full of fond memories. A decade or so ago, the festival combined punk bands with alt-radio favorites for a blistering day in the sun. Saturday, it was back with a vengeance, and hopefully it will make a return next year.
Fenix Tx came full circle since about 2001 or so when the pop punk band toured with Bad Religion and blink-182. Fenix Tx was popular at the time thanks to "All My Fault" and Bad Religion was stuck in the New America doldrums. But time has been kind to Bad Religion. Not so for Fenix Tx ... but at least the band's set was (mostly) entertaining.
Frontman William Salazar seemed stuck in the blink-182 potty-mouth era, "jokingly" calling girls bitches and asking who likes pussy. In spite of some lineup shakeups, the band pretty much sounded the same as they have over the past decade or so and stuck to the hits.
Upon taking the stage, Face to Face singer and guitarist Trever Keith made a 4/20 mention, saying that he doesn't smoke weed but feels high just by listening to the last three bands to take the stage. He asked if the crowd was ready for some punk rock and tore right into "It's Not Over" from Big Choice. Face to Face's songs were short and frenzied, making the most of the band's short time slot. Classics like "Ordinary," "Pastel," and "Disconnected" were highlighted, as well as new song, "Bright Lights Go Down."
Die-hard punk fans weren't so hot on The Faint, which is a shame, because this electronic rock band put on one hell of a show. Some fans left to secure a decent spot before Bad Religion's set, leaving the second stage area fairly vacant, but no bother. The remaining crowd comprised actual fans who danced like crazy.
At first, The Faint's setlist was similar to the songs the band played at Coachella last week. They mixed it up a bit with Blank-Wave Arcade's "Victim Convenience," which singer/keyboardist Todd Fink described as "a song from the '90s." The almost seizure-inducing strobe lights were accented by the band's crazy antics. Keyboardist Jacob Thiele was always doing crazy dances and leaned himself and his keys backwards to touch the ground behind him, while Fink swung the microphone cord around in a motion that would strangle less-experienced performers.
After a long day, Bad Religion closed out the festival on the second stage. Singer Greg Graffin talked about the band's last performance in Phoenix on Bad Religion's 30-year anniversary tour. "Now it's been 33 years. You guys look better, but we're just getting older," he said.
The band kicked off its set with True North's "Past Is Dead" and followed it up with the three-decade-old "We're Only Gonna Die (for Our Own Arrogance)," which stirred up the circle pit and a slew of crowd surfers.
Like Face to Face, Bad Religion stuck to business and crammed as many songs as possible into its hour-long set. The band actually had to cut a few songs -- "No Direction," "Vanity," and "Dept. of False Hope" all showed up on the setlist but were not played.
Bad Religion was shy a few members -- notably guitarist Greg Hetson -- and performed as a four-piece with one guitarist. Graffin changed a few lyrics here and there, sprinkling in a reference to Phoenix in "Los Angeles Is Burning" and making "Infected" a bit more sadistic by changing the lyric to "here's my confession: I've learned my lesson."
The band's set was full of tracks from True North, which sounded great next to old classics, though the onslaught of "American Jesus," "Sorrow," and "Fuck Armageddon ... This Is Hell" really can't be beat.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: That Damn Show featuring Bad Religion, The Faint, and more at Mesa Amphitheatre. Personal Bias: I saw Bad Religion and Fenix Tx on the same bill before I was old enough to drive. The Crowd: Thirty-something punks with their kids. The Hold Steady's "Stay Positive" rings truer everyday. Overheard in the Crowd: "I wish I was on acid" during The Faint. Random Notebook Dump: Dear Tiger Army: This isn't True Blood; you aren't vampires. You're from California; stop complaining about the sun.
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Fenix Tx Setlist: Something Bad's Gonna Happen Phoebe Cates Katie W. New Song Threesome A Song For Everyone All My Fault
Face to Face Setlist: It's Not Over Walk the Walk Blind I Want You Lied Ordinary A-OK You've Done Nothing Pastel I Won't Lie Down Should Anything Go Wrong Bright Lights Go Down Disconnected
The Faint Setlist: The Conductor The Geeks Were Right Desperate Guys Glass Danse (missed this one) Victim Convenience I Disappear Take Me to the Hospital (missed this one) Call Call Evil Voices Worked up so Sexual Agenda Suicide Paranoiattack
Bad Religion Setlist: Past Is Dead We're Only Gonna Die (for Our Own Arrogance) New Dark Ages True North Generator 21st Century Digital Boy Sinister Rouge Fuck You Dharma and the Bomb Los Angeles Is Burning Nothing to Dismay You Do What You Want Beyond Electronic Dreams Submission Complete Robin Hood American Jesus Sorrow Fuck Armageddon . . . This is Hell Infected